Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Great Opening Statements and Closing Arguments

This last recommended summer read – In the Interest of JusticeGreat Opening and Closing Arguments of the Last 100 Years, HarperCollins Publishers, 2004 – is a gift to trial lawyers. The gift to trial lawyers is given by author Joel J. Seidemann, who is a Manhattan Assistant District Attorney and currently prosecuting the Astor case in Manhattan. After reading his book, I contacted him to thank him for the gift, and he e-mailed back that the openings and closings had to meet two requirements to be included in his book: “excellent advocacy in high profile cases.”

The included transcripts excerpts of advocacy meet Mr. Sideman’s two prerequisites. The selected cases are very high profile, including, among others, the trials of: O. J. Simpson; Marv Albert; Sean Puff Daddy Combs; Adolf Eichmann; Martha Stewart; John Scopes; Amadou Diallo; Timothy McVeigh. Advocacy in these cases also satisfies the excellence test, with the advocates demonstrating how to effectively use these devices: storytelling; analogies; phrasing; humor; pathos; logic; themes and so much more.

Beyond satisfying these two requirements, Mr. Seidemann arranged the material in ways that are both entertaining and educational. For example, he juxtaposed Daniel Petrocelli’s opening statement for the plaintiff in the O. J. Simpson civil trial against Johnnie Cochran’s closing in the criminal case showing how two fine trial advocates can work the same case. Further, Mr. Seidemann provides well-written introductory overviews setting the stages for the transcripts of the openings and closings as well as thoughtful postscripts describing case outcomes and providing thoughtful commentary on the cases and trial work by the lawyers.

This book is a wonderful resource for trial lawyers, professors looking for illustrations of superb openings and closing and law students who are taking trial advocacy classes. If you know a deserving person with an interest in trial advocacy, In the Interest of Justice is the perfect gift.

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